A Simple Nicola

Hi everyone, thanks for the great response to my Mary Poppins outfit. Fancy dress won't feature again for a long time, I suspect. Today, I have a very simple make to share with you. As I was slowly packing for our holiday, I realised that I didn't have enough dresses for the evening to take with me. I'm happy to spend most of the daytime in shorts or mini skirts with a tank top but I like to feel a little more put together for the evening. I don't have to look too smart, just a little more "normal".

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I had a spare afternoon and decided to whip up a simple dress. I had been meaning to make another Nicola dress by Victory Patterns. I absolutely love the wrap and the shape of the skirt and I'm reminded just how much when I wear my original. However, the sleeves, despite being a lovely feature, can be a little cumbersome, especially if you want to wear a cardigan or jacket over the top. This time, I skipped the sleeves and I'm so pleased I did. This version works perfectly underneath a cardigan. I finished the arms with narrow white bias binding, a technique which has now cemented itself as my favourite way to finish arm holes. You can see how this dress came together in pictures here

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In addition to being short on time, I was also feeling a little burnt out from my sewcation. This really affected the way I approached this dress. I decided not to line the dress, mainly because of the high summer temperatures. The hem is a narrow hem - simply overlocked, turned under once and hand stitched in place. This still gives me the opportunity of lining the skirt should I want to in the future without it being a lot of work. The fabric is a French crepe by Robert Kaufmann purchased from Barry's during last year's Sew Brum meet up. It is a fabulous fabric and I will definitely consider buying more in a different print for future projects. 

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The bit that bothers me the most about this dress is the fit of the bodice. After taking forever to fit the first version, this one feels too big around the bust. It is one more indication that my needed pattern adjustments are changing and I have to accept the fact exercise has changed my body and I need to stop being lazy with the fit. If I want to repeat patterns I made over six months ago I will need to check the fit and be prepared to start over if necessary. I think I can get away with it with this dress as it is though. What do you think?

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Despite my reservations over the fit, I love this dress. It has quickly asserted itself a "must wear each week dress". The crepe is delightful to wear, needs very little pressing after washing and dries incredibly quickly. The colours work across seasons and I can see me wearing this in the autumn with a slip underneath. Yay for versatile makes! Are you sewing this weekend? If so, what's on your sewing table?

Step by step

Many of us watch the progress of an item on Instagram and it is fun to see how it takes shape. As I was making a last minute holiday make last weekend, I wondered how it would look if I documented each step. So here's a different post for you today, with a fancy collage! It isn't as detailed as it could be but I think you can see how the dress progresses. It was fun to pause and take a quick pic before moving onto the next step.

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I used Victory Pattern's Nicola dress and dropped the sleeves. I'm saving the rest of the details for a future post with much better photos of the finished dress! I hope you're all having a good weekend. Are you sewing? 

Nicola Dress: How to do a Full Bust Adjustment

Today I'm going to share how I did the Full Bust Adjustment needed for my Nicola wrap dress.

An FBA will produce a bust dart. Normally this isn't a problem but I didn't want to add another dart to a bodice that already had three at the waist. In addition, my fabric was slightly stiffer than the recommended fabrics and I was sure that a bust dart would change the shape of the bodice more than I would like. So the excess of the bust dart needed to be moved to the darts at the bottom. Here's how I did it using the slash method. Sorry if you prefer to pivot darts - I just can't get my head around that method! 

Take your bodice pattern piece. Mark where the apex of your bust is. Draw in your seam allowance at the arm hole, in this case 1.5cm. 

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Draw a vertical line from the apex to the waist line (blue line). Draw a 

line from the apex to the middle of the armsyce (green line). 

Draw a horizontal line from the apex to the side seam (imagine a bust dart here, the line goes through the middle of it) (red line). Finally, starting midway up the waist dart, draw a horizontal line to the centre front (purple line).

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Time to slash your pattern. Cut up the blue line, through the apex and continue to cut the green line until you reach the seam allowance. Stop here, don't cut through to the allowance. Snip into the seam allowance directly above but make sure you don't cut through - you want this piece to pivot. Cut along the red line but stop short of separating it completely - again you want enough paper attached that this piece can pivot. Cut the purple line completely - it should come apart from the pattern. 

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Place a piece of paper underneath your pattern - you'll need this to fill in the gaps. You're now going to open the apex by the amount you need to increase the bust. In this case, I'm adding 2.5cm but yours may differ. In order for the pattern to lay correctly, you will see a bust dart form on the side. Tape the bodice down. 

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The last step increased the length of the side seam. To make the centre front seam match, take the separated piece of your pattern and lower it until the centre front seam matches the side seam. Tape in place.

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Now it is time to remove the bust dart. Measure the dart at the side seam and make a note of it. Cut the lower line of the dart to the apex and the left hand part of the blue line. 

Move the pattern up so that the bust dart is closed and tape in place. 

Cut up the right hand line of each of the three waist darts to the red line - this will help the pattern lay flat when you move the darts. 

Divide the number you jotted down by three. This will be the amount you are adding to each waist dart. One by one, move the waist dart to include the amount and then tape down.

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Now you need to redraw the three darts. The tip of the dart will be at the same height but make sure you place the point in the centre of the opening. Draw lines from the bottom to the tip. Straighten up the bottom of the bodice and the front seam. Your pattern piece is now ready for use. 

The Nicola Dress

Here’s my first make of the Fall Essentials Sew-Along, my Nicola dress. 

Like many of the patterns I sew, I have wanted the Nicola dress by Victory Patterns in my collection for quite a while. A woven wrap dress with tulip sleeves and skirt - yes, please! There isn’t anything that screams autumn as much a wrap dress so it was the perfect pattern to get me going. 

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I won’t go into the issues I had with fitting the bodice as I’ve already covered them. Despite my toiles, I was still a little anxious about whether this dress would fit properly and I think these

 small fears are justified. It fits like a glove around my waist although it doesn’t have as much room as I am used to. It is definitely a one course only dress! The length of the skirt is straight out of the packet and feels good. I’m sure I’ll be grateful for it going beyond my knees when it starts to get colder during the days. The bodice still isn’t quite right though. I’m realistic enough to know that you won’t get rid of all pulls in a wrap bodice otherwise you won’t be able to move properly. However, the neckline feels a little too big and gaps at times. The twill tape in the neckline has stabilised it and prevented some gaps but not enough to stop you seeing more than I would like if I move in a certain way!  As I want the option of not wearing a cami underneath, I’ll be adding a little snap where the bodice wraps over to prevent any loss of modesty. 

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The shell fabric is a beautiful printed cotton from Ghana. Adam’s friend lives in Liberia but has a friend who sources good quality fabrics for her tailoring businesses and he very kindly got me some fabric. Jonathan - I owe you a few drinks the next time you are in the UK! This cotton is top quality - it is well made, is light-medium weight, supple and washes beautifully. It glided through the machine and wasn’t difficult to press. It has a reoccurring print which I tried to make the most of. In the end, I cut the dress on the cross grain in order to make the most of the green print that only ran down one of the selvedges (I was also short on length). I’m happy that the print is lined up across the corresponding pieces although it does repeat a little too early on the skirt. The sleeves have an extra seam in them as I had to cut the piece in half in order to get them at all. The print doesn’t match at all across them. Ah well, it certainly won’t stop me wearing it! 

The dress is fully lined with lilac Bremsilk which I found in Masons. It is my first time using Bremsilk and I quite like it. It is rather slippery to cut and pin in place but the finish makes the extra effort worth it. I was surprised at how cool the dress was on a warm day. It was in the low 20s when these photos were taken and I didn’t feel too warm or get that clingy feeling you can from some linings in warm weather. 

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Construction is pretty simple and the instructions are clear. I made a few changes from the directions. I skipped the facings due to lack of fabric. Instead you can see a small amount of the twill tape on the inside neckline. I could only get wide tape and decided to make a little feature of it by placing it on top of the lining and under stitching the seam to it. It holds the lining down nicely. I also changed the buttons. The original design has one button in view and another hidden under the dress. I opted for two buttons to be on show and added button holes just about the waist line where the skirt pleats are. The buttons are the left over ones from my Anise jacket. 

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I’m really pleased with how neat the dress is on the inside. It is quite possibly my best to date. There isn’t a seam in sight with all raw edges overlocked before being encased by the lining. The arm holes are hand stitched as this is where I turned the dress through after stitching in the lining. 

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There is no doubt that this dress will get a lot of wear. I’ve already worn it twice in a week and half. I feel great when wearing it and I think a lot of that is due to the shape as it is very feminine. I love the nipped in at the waist look and how the dress skims over the hips. I did wonder if I would feel a little conscious about the print but I haven’t at all. It is nice to have something so different in my wardrobe. I’m looking forward to wearing this most of the year round as I suspect it will look good with tights and heels and possibly boots in the winter. This definitely won’t be my last Nicola - I already have another version stitched up! 

Fitting the Nicola dress

I've been steadily making progress with my Nicola dress from Victory Patterns. I say steadily as I have to make three toiles of the bodice to make sure it fit. Wrap dresses are notorious for not fitting well due to the cross over of fabric and I anticipated making some changes but not three test runs!

After reading up on the pattern I definitely knew that I would have to make some changes. The cross over of the wrap and the height of the armhols seem to be common issues. I also anticipated making changes to the front of the pattern where I generally need a little extra fabric. I started by cutting a 10 at the bust, graded up to a 12 at the waist and then back down to a 10 at the hips, which gave me this:

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The good parts: 

  • The bodice and skirt length are perfect and the sleeves didn't need any alterations.
  • The armholes are a tad higher than normal but it isn't annoying and therefore I didn't bother to make any alterations here. 

Changes needed: 

  • The dress didn't fit around my waist properly. It closed about 2-2.5cm away from where it should. The dress should close where the final pleat is and it clearly isn't in the top photo - only just reaching the second.
  • The cross over is indecently low - totally revealing low! I also had drag lines on the back of the bodice meaning a full bust adjustment (FBA) was needed. I later found out that Victory draft for a B cup and I'm quite a few cups bigger. 

Second fitting

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Changes made:

  • A 2.5cm FBA. It took a while to figure out how to do this on a bodice that contains three pleats at the bottom and no side dart. In the end I followed the normal process for a FBA, creating the side dart. I then rotated the side dart to the bottom ensuring that it was evenly divided between the three pleats. Does that make sense? I'm happy to share how I did it if that would be helpful. 


  • Perfect fit around the waist -  the dress closed at the third pleat. 
  • The neckline isn't so revealing although still a little low.
  • Large amount of gaping in the neckline as the unintended but not expected consequence of the FBA. 

Third fitting

Apologies for the state of my hair in this photo - this is how it looks when I let it fall naturally!

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Changes made:

  • Neckline raised by 1cm in the middle, tapering to nothing at the shoulders and waist, as I only needed the extra cover across my bust. 
  • Pinched out about 2.5-3cm from the neckline, tapering to nothing inside the bodice, to solve the gaping. It isn't perfect but adding some twill tape to stabilise the neckline should help it lay flat in my finished version. 

Now I just hope it all translates properly to my fabric which has been waiting patiently to be transformed...